Category Archives: Visiting Speakers

Commencement Launches 132 Graduates

Photo by Joanna Chattman

Why would you want to leave Williston? That was the question Head of School Robert Hill III put to graduating seniors during Williston Northampton School’s 175th  Commencement ceremony, which took place under a tent on the Quad on May 29. (See the links below for comprehensive coverage.)

Mr. Hill went on to describe the transition graduates were about to engage in as they move past their late adolescent years and enter the adult world. He added that their education at Williston Northampton School had fully prepared them for this next step.

Commencement speaker Nonie Creme ’90, in an authentic and inspiring speech that drew an enthusiastic response from the audience, further illustrated how a Williston education served her throughout her career and life. Creme, an entrepreneur who has started two successful beauty product companies, described herself as a “really messed up teenager,” and began her story in a Santa Fe jail where she ended up after running away from her Texas home. As she tells it, the choice between boarding school and jail was a “no brainer.”

Head of School Robert W. Hill III addresses the assembly. Photo by Joanna Chattman
Head of School Robert W. Hill III addresses the assembly./Photo by Joanna Chattman

Here at Williston, she reinvented herself from a “Southern yokel in mom jeans” (or so she felt) who didn’t know how to use the washing machines in the basement of her dorm, to a cigarette-smoking Goth girl who would steal away to New York City and frequent punk clubs on breaks from school. It was at Williston where she met her “tribe.” “I retain more friendships from Williston than from any other period in my life and I’ve lived, people,” she said. “That’s proof of how critical this place is, and how critical these relationships are to you at this stage of your life.”

After Williston, she studied art at Scripps College and then followed a boy to London, where, by day, she camped out in the Underground with her nail polish supplies and sold desk-side manicures to executives. Soon fashion-lovers sought out her polish mixes. From there, she became the founding creative director of Butter London, a high-end cosmetics company. After experiencing success there, she left to found Nonie Creme Colour Prevails, selling creatively packaged makeup for the mass market at drug stores around the country.

But she never abandoned her punk aesthetic. “It’s not lost on me that there are many people out there who might say a woman who won’t dye her hair and wears a skinhead and a septum ring doesn’t belong in the beauty industry, and certainly couldn’t be the meaningful Founder of a multi-million dollar business,” she said.

Commencement speaker Nonie Creme '90/Photo by Joanna Chattman
Commencement speaker Nonie Creme ’90/Photo by Joanna Chattman

“Well, because of the love and support I received right here at Williston,” she told the audience, “I have the confidence to say ‘Screw you, I can do anything I want.’ And so can you, and so WILL you.”

Creme’s address was followed by the announcement of prizes, which were bestowed at a ceremony the previous day and the induction of 12 students into the Cum Laude Society.

Following the presentation of diplomas to the 132 graduates present (one graduating senior was not able to be at the event) by Board Chairman John Hazen White Jr., Senior Class Speaker Christopher Hudson gave his address.

Hudson asked his classmates to focus on three concepts: discipline, forgiveness, and attitude, and told them to stay positive and be grateful for the education they received at Williston.

Congratulations to the phenomenal Class of 2016!

Please see the following links for more on 2016 Commencement:






Social Justice Scholar Marcella Runell Hall to Present MLK Day Keynote

The Mount Holyoke dean will talk about social justice storytelling
Courtesy of
Courtesy of

A social justice scholar and noted author will present the keynote address at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day assembly at the Williston Northampton School on Monday, January 18.

Marcella Runell Hall, the dean of students at Mount Holyoke College, will present “Storytelling for Social Justice,” which will encourage students to define the term “ally,” explore what it means to have multiple social identities, and practice the power of storytelling.

Dr. Hall is the author of three award-winning books: “The Hip-Hop Education Guidebook: Volume 1,” with Martha Diaz; “Conscious Women Rock the Page: Using Hip-Hop Fiction to Incite Social Change;” and “Love, Race, and Liberation: ‘Til the White Day Is Done” with Jennifer “JLove” Calderon.

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Kate Nocera ’01 Presents Cum Laude Keynote

The former political reporter offered advice on the dos and don'ts of a successful career

23855136824_b5fee16222_zThere was a point during Kate Nocera’s time at the Williston Northampton School when it was doubtful that she would even graduate.

In her keynote address for this year’s Cum Laude Ceremony, Ms. Nocera, a former political journalist, talked about how she went from a fixture in the Dean of Student’s Office, to accepting her diploma with Cum Laude honors.

“My actual favorite memory from Williston was being at graduation and hearing them calling the names of the Cum Laude inductees, and hearing my name among them,” Ms. Nocera recalled.

The Cum Laude ceremony, which honors 12 seniors who have excelled academically, was held on Friday, January 16, at 8:30 a.m. in the Phillips Stevens Chapel.

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How to Create an Animated TV Pilot

Award-winning Director Chris Perry Will Talk to Williston Students About His Newest Show
Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

An award-winning screenwriter, director, and producer—who created CG fire for Pixar and won a technical Oscar for animation software behind “Life of Pi”—will talk about his creative process with students at the Williston Northampton School on Monday, December 14.

Chris Perry, a former Williston parent, will walk students through a show that’s currently in development. The yet-to-be-named animated adventure, set on a future Earth where evolution has gone bananas, was created with help from the Williston Theatre program. (Mr. Perry notes that some of animated characters are voiced by Williston students.)

Mr. Perry and members of his crew will share how they’ve taken the show from a fledgling concept to a fully realized test. The presentation will touch upon writing, voice acting, design, film, animation, and the business of producing a TV series. A Q&A will follow.

“I hope our students get some insight into how a TV pilot (in this can an animated one) gets produced, shopped around, etc.,” noted Director of the Williston Theatre Emily Ditkovski in an email. “Looks like it will be really fun.”

Mr. Perry is a professor at Hampshire College and the founder of Bit Films, an independent studio in Western Massachusetts. He has over 20 years of film experience, including as a programmer and generalist technical director in VFX and feature animation. Mr. Perry has an M.S. degree from the MIT Media Laboratory and an M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Any Williston students and interested Williston parents are welcome to attend this presentation, which will take place in the Williston Theatre. Please contact Ms. Ditkovski with questions.

Writers’ Workshop Presents John Katzenbach

The master of psychological suspense will delve into dark issues
John Katzenbach. Photo by Nancy Doherty
John Katzenbach. Photo by Nancy Doherty

Justice. Obsession. Revenge.

Author John Katzenbach will delve into these and other deliciously dark themes when he returns to the Williston Northampton campus on November 9 for the final installment of the 2015 Writers’ Workshop Series.

During the free and public lecture, Mr. Katzenbach will speak about his forthcoming book, The Dead Student, which includes a character he describes as “one of the most interesting bad guys I’ve ever created.”

“He’s a killer with a plan, and a belief that everything he’s done is totally, utterly justified,” Mr. Katzenbach notes on his website. “And not a bad guy, except that he seems to kill people.”

Originally a criminal court reporter for the Miami Herald and Miami News, Mr. Katzenbach published his first novel, In The Heat of Summer, in 1982. Since then, he’s published 12 other novels, including The Traveler, Day of Reckoning, What Comes Next, and Red 1-2-3.

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